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Last updated: June 8, 2012 7:42 pm
UN monitors in Syria arrived in at the site of an alleged massacre on Friday, the BBC reported, as fresh violence erupted across the country.
The UN team on Thursday tried to enter the area, the site of an alleged massacre earlier this week which triggered fresh demands for tougher international action against the regime. But monitors said they were turned back at checkpoints and warned by local civilians that their safety was at risk. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, said they were also shot at.
Activists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad say that between 49 and 78 people were killed by pro-government forces in Qubeir on Wednesday.
State media claim that nine people were killed by “armed terrorist groups”.
Paul Danahar, a BBC correspondent travelling with the monitors, said that he had encountered the smell of burnt flesh, blood and human remains, but no bodies.
“Attempts to cover up the details of the atrocity are calculated and clear,” said Mr Danahar on his Twitter account.
Fresh violence was meanwhile reported across Syria on Friday. Activists said an opposition neighbourhood of the central city of Homs was under particularly intense bombardment. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood was being pummelled by rockets at a rate of five-10 rockets per minute. Clashes were also reported in the Damascus neighbourhood of Kfer Souseh.
Five troops were killed when their bus was targeted with a roadside bomb in the northern province of Aleppo, the Obervatory said.
While the UN has not apportioned blame for either the Qubeir killings or the massacre that took place in the Houla area of central Syria two weeks ago, Kofi Annan, the international envoy, told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that while all parties should cease violence, primary responsibilty lay with the Syrian government and that there should be “consequences” to non-compliance with his peace plan.
The international community remains divided over taking a tougher line with Damascus however, with Russia – which with China, has vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions on Syria – accusing the west of being one-sided.
Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, who met Fred Hof, a US state department official on Friday, was quoted by Russia’s state news agency as saying that while it could be adjusted to improve implementation, the core elements of Mr Annan’s plan, which does not call for Mr Assad to step down, should remain.
Additional reporting by Charles Clover in Moscow
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